As scientists tease out the surprising secrets to aging well, they're also discounting certain factors once thought important:
Your parents' ages. Don't count on repeating long-lived ancestors if you yourself smoke, have high cholesterol, and lead a couch-potato life -- all factors associated with shortening one's lifespan. Lifestyle factors can trump genetics.
Enduring fewer stressful life events. It's how one deals with major stressful events, not just the presence or absence of them, that seems to be the bigger X factor.
Nationality and geography. "Japanese longevity" or the "French paradox" seem to have more to do with lifestyle and diet than with the virtue of being born in a certain place. The good news: Anyone can adapt the diet of Mediterranean or Okinawan cultures, snack less, exercise more, and reduce stress.
Social and economic status. A landmark Harvard study of 10 years ago pegged more education as a more reliable predictor of longevity than higher income or higher social rank.
Herbs and supplements. Certain vitamins seem to shore up aspects of health, but no miracle supplement or nutrient cocktail has yet been found to turn back the clock.